Alfa Romeo 4C defies logic, defines fun

Beautiful in busy ways, the tiny mid-engine 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C juts and struts and swoops, stopping traffic even when it’s not moving.

It gets shoved around rudely by a snarling, popping four-cylinder engine with no muffler.

The car also lacks a glove compartment, any real storage space and power steering — which might make it less “pure.”

Did I mention, by the way, that a “well-equipped” 4C costs nearly $70,000 and rides only slightly better than a John Deere tractor?

None of that really matters, though, kids.

If you love pure, elemental, unadulterated sports cars, you’ll absorb every buzz and bump with a smile.

As you may have heard, the 4C marks Alfa Romeo’s return to the U.S. after a 20-year absence.

Bold bug-eyed projector headlamps on the white Alfa I had recently dominated a sleek front end so low that the top of its horseshoe-shaped grille hit me — a strapping 66-incher — at mid-knee.

Lines everywhere chiseled the dinky sports car.

Muscular, compact front fenders carried slight peaks at their tops, for example, that cut into the doors, fading stylishly into air inlets in the rear fenders.

The rear fenders, meanwhile, curved up to meet the car’s hatchback/engine-cover, eliminating most of the driver’s side visibility.

But, hey, they looked darn good. Graceful fender flares added more spice to the 4C’s visual feast, sliding into large round Ferrari-style taillamps and beefy dual exhausts.

All of this automotive sculpture crouched low and lean over 205/40 tires up front and 235/35s in back that were wrapped around striking 18-inch alloy wheels.

The car’s bones are essentially a carbon-fiber tub to which aluminum subframes for the front and rear suspensions have been bolted.

Consequently, you don’t enter the Alfa. You tumble into it.

The 4C stands a whopping 46 inches tall, so ducking is mandatory — even for midgets like me.

Then there are broad carbon-fiber rails you have to climb over before finally falling into one of the car’s two thin-shell racing seats.

Once seated, you will sense, uncomfortably, that your precious posterior seems to be skimming about four inches above the pavement — and you wouldn’t be far off.

Don’t worry. Just push the start button.

The Alfa’s 1.7-liter turbocharged four explodes into a ragged growl so loud that I thought I might need a helmet for the drive.

First, of course, I had to figure out how to make the car go backward and forward.

Four buttons on the floorboard were marked helpfully “1” “N” “R” and “A/M.”

Eventually, I figured out that R was reverse. Then I had to hit 1 and A/M, which put the six-speed dual-clutch transmission into manual mode and required me to pull steering-wheel-mounted paddles for shifts.

Simple, right? When you stop, you shift into “N” or neutral and pull up hard on the parking brake if you don’t want to find the Alfa in your cranky neighbor’s front yard.

But trust me, it’s all worth it. The angry-sounding 1.7-liter four-banger directly behind the passenger compartment generates 237 edgy horsepower to propel about 2,600 pounds of car.

With a stout 21.8 pounds of turbocharged boost, the little engine felt surprisingly big and flexible, accelerating with bellowing ferocity between 2,000 and 5,000 rpm.

Sixty flashes by in 4.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver, and the little engine will supposedly return 24 miles per gallon in town and 34 on the highway.

Though tiny, the 4C steers like a ‘54 Chevy pickup at slow speeds, requiring some muscle to crank the small flat-bottom steering wheel.

Once at speed, however, the steering became quick, light and wildly alive, quivering and moving with every change in the road’s surface.

Charge into curves at 20 or 30 mph faster than posted and the 4C simply consumes them — no lean or fidgeting, just balanced, resolute grip.

While the suspension felt immensely competent, it didn’t offer much compliance, crashing hard over bumps large and small.


uch of the car’s black interior was proudly minimalist.

Besides the thin-shell, highly supportive seats, the 4C featured a hard, rounded dashboard covered in a semi-pliable material.

The square-shaped instrument panel housed a digital speedometer that flashed the car’s velocity in numerals.

A slightly confusing semi-circular tach surrounded the speedometer.

Meanwhile, the car’s door panels were mostly black plastic, and the only convenience features — other than a decent climate-control system — were a cupholder and a thin pouch on the dash in lieu of a glove compartment.

Alfa Romeo will send more sensible sedans here over the next couple of years. For now, though, it hopes to sell 1,200 of the 4Cs this year.

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